Saturday, 26 June 2010

Facebook brings out the inner teenager


I like to think of myself as a grown up. It’s taken me a while to get here but now I feel I can fairly call myself an adult. I have a mortgage, I keep my bank statements in a labelled box and I watch Newsnight, sometimes. This adult status means that I’m sufficiently calm and able to deal with life’s little tribulations without slipping into adolescent conduct.

Yet some things still have the power to bring out the inner teenager. These include my mother telling me I’m intrinsically selfish, my hair refusing to go into a style I’ve coerced it into many times before because I want to impress someone and, so it seems, people from the past. They bring with them all the joy of laughing at old shared jokes but also a sense of who you were then. Maybe you see your juvenile self reflected in their eyes as you giggle together. Whatever the reason for this phenomenon, it’s a force to be reckoned with.

I know this because last Wednesday night I ended up outside a minicab station at 11.30pm screaming and waving my arms in a performance worthy of any Jeremy Kyle guest. Once inside my taxi, with a mounting sense of shame, I pieced back together the chain of events which had led to this.

It goes way back to the 90s when Friends was the funniest show on TV and coolness was measured by how many pairs of Kickers you owned. A dark time when I used to wear a black bomber jacket, complete with faux fur collar, which could be completely reversed to bright silver.

Thankfully I grew out of it, went to university and began to slowly lose contact with almost everyone who’d witnessed me in such a cringy phase of my life. But, a few years down the line, along came Facebook. People you’d long forgotten about crawled out of the woodwork, requested your friendship and snooped through your photos to find out if you’d got fat.

Many of us happily accepted requests from people we’d not set eyes on in years. With some, a message or two was exchanged. But aside from pestering the masses to join this group or play with that stupid app, most of the forgotten friends remain just that. However, there will be the odd person who you actually strike up a proper friendship with. Often someone you didn’t know that well years ago, but the intervening decade has turned you both into people who have something in common.

It was at dinner with my new-old 90s friend that the trouble began. New-old friend is a man and also friends with someone I had a brief and very teenage relationship with in 1999. For the mathematically slow, that’s coming up on 11 years ago. After a glass too many of wine it slipped out that we had previously been spotted in the heinous crime of having a drink together.

This serious offence caused the convening of some sort of committee meeting by friends of the ex-boyfriend to discuss what was to be done about such unacceptable behaviour. New-old friend was then forced to go to ex-boyfriend (from 1999) and seek his permission to carry on being friends with me.

This is quite clearly ridiculous. Anyone sensible would feel a sense of acute embarrassment for those to whom so little of interest has happened in their twenties that they still carry on soap opera-like melodramas from their teens. Sadly, upon having this story relayed to me, I ceased to be sensible.

Floods of indignation welled up in me. How dare these people all sit around and discuss me behind my back? They were all no more than a very faded memory to me. Why was I still a larger-than-life character who clearly posed some sort of threat to them? I hadn’t done anything wrong. It just wasn’t fair.

Imagine those statements yelled in rage as I stormed along the street arms flapping around, and it’s a pretty faithful rendition of what happened. Initially I wanted to know: why didn’t new-old friend stand up for me and defend our newfound friendship? But, demanding loyalty is so teenage. We adults accept we may well have friends who don’t like each other, for whatever reason. So everyone behaves diplomatically and known foes are not seated next to each other at your birthday dinner.

I think what it comes down to is that some relationships come with too much baggage, even though it’s not immediately apparent. It’s these weighty appendages which drag you down to being someone you wouldn’t be at any other time.

I only wish I’d had this moment of Zen-like enlightenment before I got home and began publishing my rage through angry status updates on Facebook: the ultimate in immature behaviour. Still room for a little more personal growth ... Read more by Rosie.